sweet, half-darkness had a successful opening weekend! Here are some notes from the director and designers about the concepts and design elements behind this collaborative creation. Come see it at the Menomonee Club (1535 N Dayton) Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 4pm (no 11/15 performance) through November 22.
Amanda Jane Dunne on Directing sweet, half-darkness:
As Genesis Ensemble embarks on our second production, sweet half-darkness, we find ourselves growing as a company and coming closer to solidifying a process and style uniquely our own. Going from a 5-month creation process for our last venture The Secrets Project, to only 2-months was a huge challenge. But the ensemble and designers trusted me and the mission of Genesis, and what we have here today is truly a collaborative creation.
The idea behind this show has been bubbling in my brain for some time. I had read two texts, The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. And while these books are vastly different from one another, the idea that these two female characters decided to make unconventional choices in eras where convention was the only option was fascinating to me. I wanted to explore if today we are still as greatly influenced by convention and expectation in our choices, or if we are more willing to break free. And does breaking free sound better than it is in practice?
We want to constantly reinvent ourselves, but it is frightening. Can we really take the steps necessary to do so? Are we willing to make all the sacrifices and follow through with the knowledge that we might fall flat on our faces? And are we really reinventing ourselves or running away from our problems? The answers are personal. I ask you, do you think our protagonist Lucy is selfish in her wants or a woman who desires to live a full life? In The Awakening the protagonist is described as such, “She felt like some newborn creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known.” At the crossroads we find ourselves at, when we see the world in a new way, did we change, can we change, will we change?
Annie Perry on her Light & Sound Design:
Have you ever stood at Adler Planetarium and instead of looking up at the stars, turn your face towards the glass, steel and concrete front door that is our city’s skyline? Have you ever done it as the sunrises over Lake Michigan? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it before the weather gets too cold.
In the fall, Chicago is a beautiful mix of amber and steel blue colors offset by warm reds and light purples. In lighting sweet, half-darkness I have attempted to evoke the undulating moments within dawn and dusk each morning and evening in Chicago. These brief instants provide the semi-light parentheses of the day for each of us dwelling within the City of Big Shoulders.
Lucy is merely existing in Chicago at the start of the play and is undergoing an awakening to living life. In discussing Lucy’s development, Amanda and I felt very strongly that not only light, but also water would be the cleansing and renewal mechanism for her. Water plays a large role in both of the novels that inspired this play and we wanted to bring into the theatre the possibilities water exhibits, ranging from serene to cataclysmic. Each time water is introduced into the space sonically it is a little different, reflecting the points along Lucy’s path to her final decision.
Thank you for attending sweet, half-darkness I hope the atmosphere inspires and entertains.
Catherine Turco on her Set Design:
“There ought, I thought, to be a ritual for being born twice – patched, retreaded and approved for the road…” –The Bell Jar
There are those moments in life when you know you will never be the same. The plates of life have shifted and you cannot return to the life you previously led. We can make the transition kicking and screaming or accept it and keep moving. In sweet, half-darkness, Lucy sheds her past by ceremoniously giving away objects that, in her mind, cannot be associated with the next phase of her journey. Objects, after all, only carry the importance that we assign to them. While Lucy may no longer want them, they have tremendous value to the other people webbed into her life. When the once familiar becomes unrecognizable and the once precious becomes meaningless, the next phase has begun and she must redesign the future.
Emily Rose Goss on her Costume Design:
Please costume this play. But there is no script... or characters... or setting... yet.
The process of designing costumes for a devised piece of theatre is completely different from that of a "normal" play. To start, there is no script; only inspirational text. There are no characters; only ideas. You must work closely with the director to not only make sure your vision aligns with hers, but to know if the play is still taking place in the arctic tundra or if that idea has been abandoned for an exploration of a sunny farmers market.
So for me, costuming my first show with Genesis Ensemble required a huge amount of communication with the director as well as attending rehearsals within the devising process. This allowed me not only to understand what was required of the costumes, but also how each character was developing. It was a large undertaking, but an exhilarating challenge.
The result of my efforts is a palette of different shades and textures of black and white representing what is expected of each of us in life. The one character who questions these expectations wears blue as a visual representation of her desire to move beyond what is conventional and accepted.